Phrase X (“The Dead”)-Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe


Those are the ones, without identifiable faces, but
those are the ones who came,
they took their places around the lamp, they
said they were passing through but
asked why we were practically
refusing to let
go. They spoke
in rather hushed tones, with restraint, and
without anger. Both he and she were
weary and most anxious;
they thought from now on nothing more
would happen that might give a semblance
of veridiction to the vast, distant murmur, to
this stony echo (to the ashes, they said).
They were not complaining, they were simply
asking to be believed, he with his hat
on his head, and busying himself with his hands, and she,
prickly (or just proud), beautiful no doubt,
who from the depths of her age, with her graying eyes, and tears
—whereas he dared say nothing—appealed
not for reparation, but simply
for justice, that the laws
familiar to all be applied, the laws
that govern our insignificance, evil in the world,
and our infirmity. It is not credible,
no, she said, what has happened to us,
not credible: you know
this, you know we hadn’t done anything,
and you never mention it, never, never.
And he, barely audible: we
are the witnesses that out of shame you’re challenging.

(December 17, 1988–February 29, 1996)






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